(Editor’s Note: Story from MTN News’ John Emeigh)
BUTTE – Those who knew Ron Ueland repeatedly used one word to describe him.
“He was a visionary,” said Stephanie Sorini.
“I’d call him a visionary,” said Ron Davis.
According to family, Ueland died unexpectedly from a heart attack at his ranch just west of Butte Saturday at age 65. He’s remembered as a giant in the Butte business community.
“And he was incredible for our business community because of his passion, but especially because of him wanting to better our hometown. He loved economic development,” said Sorini, who is the executive director of the Butte Chamber of Commerce.
Ueland is in the Bobcat Hall of Fame as one of Montana State’s great linebackers from the early 1970s. He went on to a successful business career and was in the process of developing a large malting facility for craft beers west of Butte called Montana Craft Malt.
“He always said, ‘Why are we taking Montana barley and Montana malt, shipping it elsewhere? Why don’t we finish the product here? Why are we taking the old buildings in Butte and tearing them down? We can change the image of our community,’” said Davis, who heads Butte Broadcasting Inc. and was a good friend of Ueland.
Friends say that Ueland made a lot of money in his time and he could have gone anywhere in the world, but he chose to stay and invest in his hometown of Butte.
“He chose to come back to his hometown and create good things to make Butte better. And I think that’s going to be tough, I don’t think there’s any way to replace him,” Davis said.
Though his death was sudden, friends are confident his strong family will carry on his projects.
“He has a wonderful family. He brought his daughter Jennifer in on the malt plant, so I truly feel that they are going to be continued and they will be very successful in his memory and honor,” Sorini said.